The NYTimes recently posted an article from a law professor at UC-Berkeley noting that the legal industry is seeing improvement, which is good news for law schools and recent graduates.
One of the factors that will help law students is that "[t]he smaller classes will begin graduating this year and continue to shrink through 2018. Fewer lawyers are likely to mean better first-job numbers, assuming the employment market does not keep declining."
And according to the article, "several new studies ... point to signs of vigorous life in the legal job market, at least toward the higher end. The top global law firms ranked in the annual AmLaw 100 survey experienced a 4.3 percent increase in revenue in 2013 and a 5.4 percent increase in profit.
At the top law schools, things are returning to the years before the financial crisis. Last year, 93.2 percent of the 645 students of the Georgetown Law class of 2013 were employed. Sixty percent of the 2013 graduates were in the private sector with a median starting salary of $160,000."
Additionally "[a] new study provides a compelling reason to be optimistic about a career in law. Two professors, Frank McIntyre and Michael Simkovic, recently released a study of lawyer salaries from 1984 to 2013 with the goal of seeing whether students who graduated in a down economy suffered long-term negative effects. In another paper, the two authors found that such acceleration in compensation results in a premium of $1 million for lawyers over their lifetime compared with those who did not go to law school. Another study released last fall by the American Bar Foundation supports the authors’ findings. The foundation’s After the JD project surveyed lawyers who passed the bar in 2000 to assess their career trajectory 10 years after graduation. The foundation found that as of 2012, lawyers had high levels of job satisfaction and employment as well as high salaries. Even graduates with low grades from low-ranked law schools had median incomes in the $85,000 to $95,000 range. This follows the fact that law firm salaries have risen by more than inflation since 1995, according to the National Association for Law Placement."
As the article notes, "there will [continue] to be disruptions [in the legal field], but [it] is likely to be a case of lawyers shifting from law firms to corporate departments and compliance becoming its own industry. Solo practice, meanwhile, will become more difficult because of automation. Again, these changes are likely to hit students at lower-tier schools harder than those graduating from the top schools."
So good and bad news, but's better than constant bad news all of the time.